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Variations on 1984 and Blade Runner, by the author of The Negligence of Death (not reviewed). It's a few wars into the future, including one with Oceania (as in Orwell), and the US's largest underclass is Mexican (not Asian, as in Blade Runner), with California sold to Mexico. The humorless hero, who lacks even a saving cynicism, is an Inquisitor, or hard-boiled blade runner, who hunts down bureaucrats violating the Second Five-Year Plan to Eradicate Poverty (rather than the replicants of Blade Runner). Someone has been ripping off the Child Development Program in Hailey, Montana, and the aged, corrupt Regional Minister assigns Inquisitor Bill Brave, a Sioux, to blow away the perps (there's never any talk of trials or gathering evidence). Brave goes to Halley, where he links up with his old girlfriend Mary, who he later discovers is on the perps' pipeline and the Minister's payroll. The gray satire has him attending various welfare meetings before he's attacked and beaten by thugs sicked on him by Mary. Eventually he sees through the Minister's scam, but not before he loses an arm trying to foil a robbery. Brave drops out of the service as an Inquisitor, sets up a new life with a new girlfriend, but her very broad sex life (liberal inclusion of other men, incest, etc.) depresses him with jealousy, although the nation's prevailing morality condones her behavior. Meanwhile, Brave tries to straighten things out with his wife Karen and their two sons. At last the Minister sucks him back into service, gives him a final assignment. But this too turns out to be only a spider strand of deceit, with Brave as a fly sent to be slaughtered. Few readers expect speculative fiction about bureaucracy and moral decay to have real force, and this doesn't: it's more like a long alcoholic depression, meant to be experienced grimly rather than enjoyed as an inspired and overflowing work. Lacks conviction.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1990
Publisher: Black Heron
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